We Give MP1 Number Grades a “U” for Unsatisfactory

The administration recently switched marking period one grades from numerical grades to letter grades, potentially causing more harm than good to the student body.

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In an e-mail written on October 2, Principal Seung Yu announced that the Stuyvesant grading system will now use numerical grades for the first marking period (MP1). In past years, MP1 grades were reported via a letter system, with each grade range corresponding to a letter: E for “Excellent” between 90-100, S for “Satisfactory” between 75-89, N for “Needs Improvement” between 65-74, and U for “Unsatisfactory” below 65. To avoid placing undue stress on students, whether they are just starting out at Stuyvesant or closing out their high school careers, it is crucial that the letter-grade system be restored for MP1 report cards.

A numerical MP1 grade is an unnecessarily premature assessment of a student’s performance in a class—only a handful of assessments and homework assignments are averaged. It is normal to have a few bumps during MP1, but with a numerical grading system, one suboptimal grade heavily influences one’s overall marking period average. Letter grades that provide ranges give students leeway as they adjust to high school.

Letter grades falling in the “Satisfactory” and “Excellent” categories suggest that students are meeting and exceeding standards, even if they aren’t getting a 100. These categorizations indicate to students and parents that attending a specialized high school comes with a unique set of academic expectations, in which one does not need to have a perfect grade in order to be achieving academically. While it is true that the vagueness of the “Satisfactory” grade range, which spans 14 points, might make it unclear to parents exactly how their child is doing, they are always able to check Jupiter Ed for a more nuanced portrait. Students are encouraged to have a growth mindset that will help them self-improve throughout the rest of their Stuyvesant careers. Letter grades make students less prone to comparing their grades and participation in toxic discussions.

Seniors are the cohort most impacted by the shift in grading policy. When reviewing early applications, many colleges consider seniors’ MP1 grades. Numerical grades place more stress on students who are already juggling academics with the college application process. Since letter grades provide little distinction, there is less pressure to work to bring one’s grade from a 80 to an 85 as it will appear the same on a report card. Numeric MP1 grades also pressure seniors to make strategic calculations about just how hard they should work to obtain the highest grades possible since it is known that college admissions officers emphasize the importance of demonstrating academic growth as the year progresses.

One could argue that students should appreciate the more precise assessment that numerical grades provide. Principal Yu also claims that the “letter grades for MP1 cause more confusion than clarity.” However, MP1 report card e-mails already contained a table with the corresponding grade range for each letter received.

Overall, the switch from letter grades to number grades for MP1 could potentially be detrimental to the mental health of all students. If the switch becomes permanent, it could further perpetuate stress among students. For students or parents who want to see academic progression in more detail, Talos and Jupiter are always available to showcase grades across marking periods. But for the freshmen who are still adjusting to Stuyvesant and the seniors who are preparing for college, numerical MP1 grades must go.